Despite the hopes and dreams of millions, it is highly unlikely that your college acceptance letter will arrive by owl post, summoning you off to a hidden castle and years of education in the magical arts. Be that as it may, the entire process of registration, matriculation, moving in, and making your way through those first few months as a college freshman can sometimes feel as foreign as the wizarding world of Harry Potter... and the similarities don't stop there.
Although you won't be heading off from platform 9 and three-quarters, you will be whisked away from the life you've always known and thrust into a brave new world of mysterious traditions, newfound knowledge, and dangerous temptations. Without a wand to light your way, or a serene white owl to calm your nerves (don't even ask — owls are not allowed in the dorms... I checked), you're sure to be in need of a little guidance.
So, as you pack up your shower shoes, consider your academic options, and prepare to meet your new roommate, muse over a galleon's worth of free advice from the chosen one with these 15 life lessons for the college freshman, courtesy of Harry Potter.
Choose Your Friends Wisely
Not everyone finds her Weasley on the first day of school, and there's no rule out there tying you to the friends you make from the start. However, finding true friends can be the surest path to a happy, healthy four years of higher education, so it doesn't hurt to take the social aspect of school seriously. Don't be taken in by flash and fawning — find your way to the free spirits who make you truly happy, and let the rest of college life just fall into place.
Coolness Doesn't Count
Whether you're drawn to the mysterious lure of the mimbulus mimbletonia or happiest with your nose in a thick old book, there's no such thing as uncool in college. So, let your freak flag fly — the people who matter won't mind, and the people who mind genuinely won't matter — that's what makes college so blissfully special.
Make Friends With Your Favorite Professors
It's hard to form a real rapport with any of your high school teachers — the gap in age, experience, and interests is simply too great (not to mention the social stigma). However, now that you've made your way to college there's no reason not to get to know your professors on a personal level. Although it's unlikely you'll find yourself burying a giant spider with two of the college staff in tow, you're guaranteed of great conversation and maybe even a mentor or two if you make the effort to spend time with your teachers.
Play To Your Strengths
Whether you find your talents best expressed on the quidditch pitch or the stage, college is the perfect time to find fulfillment in what you do best. You're no longer limited to the five core subjects and a few select extracurricular activities, so find what you do best and stick with it — the surest path forward is your own.
Keep An Open Mind
You'll never know if you can ride a hippogriff unless you take a deep bow and march bravely forward — now is not the time to shy away from a new adventure. You'll never again have such a smorgasbord of choice opportunities laid out before you, so keep an open mind, sample broadly from the college buffet, and then choose how you'll proceed.
Explore Your Extracurricular Interests
From quidditch to charms club, chess to debate, there has never been a better time to indulge your hobbies and see what else there is out there that you truly might enjoy. Whether you're shoring up a shaky skill or trying something new, college is the perfect time to explore those extracurriculars.
Take Time To See The Sights
Granted, you're unlikely to find a shrieking shack down the street from your dormitory, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't take the time to explore life off-campus. Dormitories are delightful and libraries are lovely, but life doesn't end when you step off the quad. Who knows, if you keep those eyes open you may even find a secret passage that proves useful.
Some Rules Are Meant To Be Broken
While I'm certainly not advocating blanket disregard for the rules, playing it entirely by the book isn't going to do you any favors either. You never know who you might save from a giant snake or an enchanted diary if you're willing to put a toe across the line every now and again.
Follow Your Instincts
High school is all about following the curriculum, college is about following your heart. If you feel called to the life of an Auror, make your way into advanced potions whatever the requirements may be, and if you realize fine art is your true passion after registering at an engineering school, sketch in your off hours until you find a cohort of likeminded compadres. Your dreams are your own, and now's the time to dance with them, so don't be shy.
Listen To Your Elders
Believe it or not, age does bring some measure of wisdom, and if you're not willing to learn from those who have gone before you, you're going to miss out on a wealth of great advice. Whether you're looking for information to help you defeat the incarnation of true evil, or tips on getting into law school, your elders are your best resource, so trust in their guidance.
Don't Be Afraid To Ask For Help
Help will always be given at Hogwarts to those who ask for it, and believe it or not the maxim carries weight at most colleges. When you begin to feel lost, alone, and uncared for, reach out — whether you're struggling academically or socially there are resources out there to make your life a whole lot easier, so don't suffer in silence. You are not alone.
Everyone Makes Mistakes
My own personal failures are so numerous I couldn't list them here even if I wanted to (and trust me, I don't), but the beauty of college is that mistakes are expected and embraced. So, take your licks like a true Gryffindor, duck into the room of requirement if you need a quick break, and then get back out there — college is too short to waste more than a moment feeling sorry for yourself.
Don't be a jerk — whether you're taking time to talk to the quiet girl in the corner reading her paper upside down or offering a little empathy to a close friend on a bad day, there's simply no reason to be cruel when kindness is always an option.
If At First You Don't Succeed, Try, Try Again
Although admittedly he was in it for all the wrong reasons, you've got to admire Draco Malfoy's commitment to fixing that vanishing cabinet in the room of requirement when his life really depended on it. Of course, I have every faith that you'll limit your efforts to non-lethal, morally upstanding endeavors, but as you do just remember that you're unlikely to succeed the first time around — the more you fail the closer you are to success.
When In Doubt, Do What's Right
At the end of the day, most decisions can be reduced to two basic alternatives — the right choice and the wrong one. College is your chance to become your own woman; to be the change you've always wanted to see in the world; to live life the Harry Potter way, so make the right choice, no matter what the short term consequences you're bound to feel better in the end.
Image: Warner Bros. Entertainment; giphy(15)